EXCLUSIVE: Six villagers in a field on the outskirts of Benghazi were shot and injured when a US helicopter landed to rescue a crew member from the crashed jet, reports Lindsey Hilsum.
Channel 4 News International Editor, Lindsey Hilsum, says that the villagers were shot when a US helicopter picked up the pilot who had ejected from the F-15E Eagle plane after it experienced a mechanical failure.
The US aircraft crashed on Monday night and was found in a field outside Benghazi and landed in rebel-held territory.
The local Libyans who were injured in the rescue mission are currently in hospital. They are the first confirmed casualities of allied operations, almost four days after operations began. At the time of writing, no one had died as a result of the gunfire.
Lindsey Hilsum has been in the hospital where some of the injured were taken. She has spoken to the father of a young boy who expects to have his leg amputated due to a bullet wound.
Gauging the reaction of locals in the area, she said: “the local Libyans do not seem resentful, they still want the coalition forces to keep operating.”
Both crew members ejected and have now been flown out of Libya by US personel, according to a US military spokesman.
He said the crash was “not due to enemy or hostile actions.”
The pilot and a weapons officer were aboard the fighter jet, having set off from from Aviano Air Base in Italy. On experiencing the mechanical difficulties, both pilots ejected safely, but suffered minor injuries.
The pilot was rescued by the US helicopter soon after crash landing and opposition rebels recovered the weapons officer, taking “took good care of him” before coalition forces picked him up some time later.